Kumara Parvatha (KP) is the second highest peak in Coorg, fifth highest in Karnataka and the trek to its summit is considered one of the toughest in western ghats. Also known as Pushpagiri, KP at 1712 meters is the highest peak in Pushpagiri wildlife sanctuary which spreads over the borders of Coorg and Dakshina Kannada districts. It has two trek routes- one from Coorg (Somwarpet) and the other from Kukke subrahmanya. The trek is a total of 22 kms while entering from somwarpet and exiting via kukke. The trek route cuts through grasslands, forest patches and massive rocks, as expansive vistas of green carpets spread out.
What happens when someone who is not a frequent trekker and does not have any commendable previous experience of trekking decides to conquer KP without any proper preparations usually taken before an arduous trek? Add a wrong attire and a sagging heavy shoulder bag, and the trek becomes a gruelling one.
From now on that 'someone' stands corrected as 'I'.
The tiny bus stand of Somwarpet had just woken up as the group alighted from the bus. A couple of shops were open and after the morning ablutions we headed to one of those small shops which served hot idlis and dosas. Gobbled down a few idlis and washed it down with a hot coffee before meeting our trek guide. The group ambled back into the vehicle and then a short drive past small villages and vast paddy fields led to Beedhalli, where we disembarked. The trek was to begin from Beedhalli, where all we could see was a lonely house, a couple of stray calves and the road meandering along the paddy fields. There was nobody around except for us. After distributing the tents and food onto different hands we followed our trek leader along a narrow path that cut across a paddy field. It was a small group of 11 members and Santosh (organiser) and myself were the ones to trod behind. The first frame of greenery arose before us, as hills and trees sprung up from nowhere. The narrow path across the field led to a small forest patch and suddenly the openness of the paddy fields with the beaming sun gave way to shades and gradients. The path wasn't well defined, but we just needed to follow the person ahead of us. With long stumps for support we trudged forward and soon there was more greenery and hills all around. We made our way through the frail forest path with knee high bushes all along. The forest patch cleared up after a while and we were knocking the doors of the forest office for the permission and passes.
|First glimpse of greenery and forest|
As Santosh and our guide completed the formalities at the forest office, we trekkers walked to a stream that flowed just ahead. Water was only ankle deep and we had to cross it to trek further. We played in the waters for a while and captured the absolutely serene surroundings. The water slithered over slippery round pebbles and made its way deep into the dark green forest as the sun's rays seeped through the canopy and glistened the beautiful stream making an idyllic setting. There is a broken bridge above the stream which was used by trekkers and forest officers sometime back. Now all begin the trek by wading across the stream.
|The stream we cut across|
|The meandering trail to KP|
The weight of the books and clothes on my shoulder pulled me down many a time. Not undertaking any prior preparation for this arduous trek slowly crept in as I could feel the tiredness and fell way behind the group. Though we did take very short breaks in between, the bag and the jeans wasn't helping. I had my first cramps on my left leg shortly. I sat down, had a few sprays and was back on my feet. Struggling, I trudged forward and had taken only a few steps when cramps caught my other leg too. I needed rest and sat down for a while with a couple of them from the group. After the rest, I was back on my feet and we walked quicker to catch up with the group that went ahead. The pain waned slowly and we walked deeper into the forest.
We had to crawl over a small rock and climb further before breaking at a clearing to have our packed lunch. Vistas opened up before us and only then did we realise how high we were and how far we had climbed. Hills covered in green canopy and distant valleys spread before us as we gazed for a while before satiating our hunger. Though I did not have any further cramps, the pain on my shoulder was slowly got the better of me. Santosh pointed out that, the bag I had was not a proper backpack and that could be the reason for the pain. I just nodded at my ignorance. It had been more than three hours since we began the trek and we had covered less than half the distance before the break. After the long lunch break, we trekked further up, collected water that trickled through the cracks in rocks, and enjoyed the vistas that opened up intermittently between the foliage. Animal presence is a rarity on the trek but we did spot a few elephant droppings on the way. Our guide passed on the information that elephants are sometimes found wandering in the night through the corridor which we had cut across.
|Magnificent vistas from where we stopped for lunch|
|First rock climb|
|Vistas after the first rock climb|
|The second rock climb|
|The final leg to the top|
|Views from the top of KP|
Dozed off in a while and woke up at the break of dawn to witness the sunrise. It was cold and hazy outside the tent and I slowly crawled out of it. Trekkers sheepishly gathered as darkness gave way for light and the sky cracked with a splash of orange hue. Undoubtedly the sun's rise made a beautiful frame with the magnificent landscape in the foreground. We dismantled the tents, packed and trekked our way down via Kukke subrahmanya side, another route. This is the route that is normaly taken by most trekkers while trekking KP. The route is also comparatively a longer one. After a photo shoot with other trekkers we began trekking down the rocky stretch. After the initial easy walk, it was a sharp slanting drop which was quite adventurous and slightly risky. The path was almost a right angled one and I precariously made my way down that stretch. Definitely one of the most dangerous stretches on the trek.This was the only rocky path on the way down before it led to the forest patches and open grasslands. However, there were teenage trekkers in slippers and sandals going down rock in minutes. They just whizzed past me as I struggled to take each step. Must be frequent trekkers, I thought.
|Down the treacherous stretch|
Many of the hills that we saw from the vantage points had to be crossed before we touched Kukke town. The further paths were along the ridges of the hills with 360 degree view of the surrounding hills and valleys. From the ridges the path slowly made its way through grasslands over hill tops from one hill to another. On the way up, we escaped the sun's beat due to the forest cover which was present during most part of the trek. While on the way down we lacked that and got us tired very early into the trek. I spent time capturing the wonderful vistas and lost a lot of time due to this. Santosh urged me reduce the time spent on photography in order to catch up with the group which had gone ahead. I lagged behind during a major part of the trek, due to tiredness, heat and photography. The frequency of my breaks increased and that made it all the more tough to catch with the rest. Kukke town could be seen at a distance, way down between the hills and that seemed like a long long walk past the numerous hills that stood between the town and me. The grasses were almost knee high and I held onto them at a few places where the path seemed a bit tricky. I had run out of water and the sun along with the heavy shoulder bag (I kept cursing it during most part of the trek) took a toll on me. Meanwhile, we crossed path with many trekkers who were on their way down.
|The white spots is Kukke town, the finish point|
|Mantapa amidst the grasslands|
After resting for a while and a photography session later, we were back on our heels. My energy levels were up again and I walked ahead of the group with our guide. Sun was the only concern as it brought the energy down considerably. It was more open lands and slowly the group caught up with me. Most in the group were surprised to see the slow tortoise lead the group for a while. It was not long before they went past me as I took more breaks along the winding paths that entered a forest patch. My tired legs almost gave up as the path took me deeper into the forest. The group was ahead of me and I could hear their sounds and they called out frequently to make sure I followed them. The forest patch turned into a thick one and the gradient got steep as I walked deeper. Even though the sun had not gone down, light had reduced considerably and I was alone for the entire part of this last stretch. Tiredness had the better of me and my legs almost gave up at many places as it was tough to get up after each break. Exhaustion made the stretch seem like the toughest part of the trek. Engulfed with foliage, entwined roots and trees, I felt I was in the middle of a jungle. It was absolute silence as I made my way through the forest with fading light and no soul in the vicinity. It did feel eerie at times. My group was way ahead of me and I had to reach down before it turned totally dark. I did not carry a torch and the last 15 minutes of the trek which seemed like an hour was in almost darkness without any rest. I took each step with immense difficulty and was extremely happy as I heard voices soon. I was close to the finish point. I smiled, was relieved and let out a cry on seeing others wait for me. I had achieved it! I had conquered Kumara Parvata!
|The last forest patch|
Signing Note- A body and soul wrenching trek, worth every single sweat...!!
Starting point- Somwarpet (Coorg)
End point- Kukke Subrahmanya (Dakshina Kannada)
Distance- 22 Kms (8 Kms uphill and 14 Kms downhill)
Contact- Santosh Nair (Exotic Expeditions)- 09986450370